Schumer says Trump budget could hurt Jamestown airport

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched a push to protect important air service in Upstate New York from proposed cuts by the Trump administration. The Administration’s FY2018 budget proposes slashing funds for the Essential Air Service (EAS) Program by $175 million. Schumer highlighted that the EAS program is critical to supporting air service in a number of communities, including: Jamestown, Massena, Ogdensburg, Plattsburgh, Saranac Lake, and Watertown. This reckless cut will impact the ability of these airports to remain operational and will all but eliminate air service in these New York communities, forcing resident to drive hours to the next closest airport.

“This cut is reckless and counterproductive and would virtually eliminate the vital EAS Program and would jeopardize air service for rural communities across the country, especially in Upstate New York. There is no question about it – access to air travel is good for businesses, good for jobs, good for the middle class and good for financial health of the community,” said Senator Schumer. “Small local airports like Jamestown, Massena, Ogdensburg, Plattsburgh, Saranac Lake and Watertown are vital to the communities they serve. Rather than cutting this critical funding the administration should be making sure that small airports can continue to support local residents and regional development. Let me be clear, I will do all in my power to make sure these harmful cuts to Upstate airports will never fly. I will fight tooth and nail to protect this critical federal investment until these cuts are grounded permanently.”

Schumer explained the President’s budget would cut EAS funding by $175 million next year. EAS funding provides critical support to commercial air service to underserved communities across the country, including Jamestown, Watertown, Massena, Ogdensburg, Plattsburgh, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid in Upstate New York. Jamestown served 3,537 passengers by year end in 2016; Massena served 10, 554 passengers; Ogdensburg served 8,233 passengers; Plattsburgh served 13,432 passengers; Saranac Lake/Lake Placid served 9,547 passengers. Without these airports, Jamestown passengers would have to travel 76 miles access air service, and passengers in Massena would have to travel as much as 256 miles to access air service.

The Essential Air Service program was developed after the airline industry was deregulated in 1978. Deregulation gave airlines the freedom to decide which markets to serve and how much to charge for that service. This led to a scarcity of air service in many communities across the country where operating costs were higher and populations were smaller and less dense. The EAS program was put in to place to guarantee air service to these underserved communities. EAS ensures commuter airlines across the country serve approximately 140 rural communities, including seven communities in Upstate New York. Without EAS, there would likely be no scheduled air service to Jamestown, Watertown, Massena, Ogdensburg, Plattsburgh, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, forcing residents to travel long distances to access air service and eliminating hundreds of jobs.